Better Leaders Learn to Listen

Do you find it easy to be a good listener? Are you like me, and many others, who are busy thinking of what to say while the other person is speaking? Especially when it’s your family?

It’s not a natural thing for me to sit back and listen. My brain is moving all the time and it tends to be very selfish and self-centred. When I reflect on the arguments that I have with my teenage children or with someone who has a different view from me, the problem comes in the refusal of both parties to listen.

When neither party is listening, who goes first?

Did you ever play the game “Hot and Cold?” At birthday parties, as a child, we would play this game and hide the birthday child’s gifts. We would then make the birthday child search for their gifts while we helped them. As the searcher got closer to the gift we’d yell “You’re getting hotter…hotter.” Then, if they moved away from where the gift was hidden we would get a little disappointed and say, “Colder, colder…freezing… .” We all had the goal of helping the searcher find their gifts.

I wonder if many people are living their lives playing “Hot and Cold.” They are searching for ways to solve their problems or to be successful, but often they do not know which way to go or where to find it. What many people need is someone to help them navigate.

A typical leader might assume that they know where people want to go. Other leaders may believe that everyone is just like them and that they are searching for the same thing. Better leaders learn to listen to those around them to learn what it is that they are looking for.

I love what Sarah Hamlin says in How to Talk So People Listen. She says, “Listening requires giving up our favourite human pastime – involvement in ourselves and our self-interest.” Imagine that, stopping long enough to listen to my teenager. Especially when I know I’m right!

Hamlin goes on to say that each listener is listening to you to hear if you can answer their two most important questions:

  1. Why should I listen to you?
  2. What’s in it for me if I let you in?

The Leader’s Challenge

John Maxwell says, “It is the leader’s job to initiate connection with the people.” Let me write that another way:

  • It is the PARENT’S job to initiate connection with their CHILDREN.
  • It is the COACH’S job to initiate connection with their TEAM and PARENTS.
  • It is the ELDER’S job to initiate connection with the YOUNGERS.
  • It is the POLITICIAN’S job to initiate connection with the COMMUNITY.

Many of us have the affliction of wanting to be heard first, but as Stephen Covey taught me, to be effective we need to take the time to understand. “We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

A Progression of Listening

Julien Treasure, in his 2011 Ted Talk entitled “5 Ways to Listen Better” gives us a 4 step process for listening.

  • R – Receive (Pay attention)
  • A – Appreciate (you know, those little sounds you make that show you’re paying attention)
  • S – Summarize (that little word, “so …”)
  • A – Ask questions

It’s like my mom would say, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. So we would listen [at least] twice as much as we talk.”

If you’d like to grow in your ability to connect with the important people in your life I’d love to help. You can book a 15-minute coaching conversation with me or you can book a FREE Lunch and Learn with your team (in person or by Zoom).

Also, on November 2, I’d love for you to join me for a half-day interactive training day. We’re going to learn some principles and practices that you can start right away. The people you most influence will be thankful! (robbmassey.be/everyonecommunicates)

*You can read more about Connecting in John Maxwell’s bestseller, Everyone Communicates Few Connect. It’s where I got many of my ideas for this article.

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